Keynan: UNSC seat recognition of Kenya’s global influence in peacebuilding

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opens the meeting of foreign ministers of the Committee of Ten (C-10) on the United Nations Security Council Reform at Kempinsky Hotel in Nairobi on November 17, 2014.  PHOTO | PSCU

What you need to know:

  •  Kenya will hold the rotating seat for the third time since Independence, having sat on the UNSC in 1973-1974 and in 1997-1998.
  • It is the only Third World nation to host the headquarters of a main UN agency, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep).

On January 1, 2021, Kenya will assume its seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) following its election during the 74th General Assembly session on June 17.

Kenya’s replacing South Africa followed a resounding endorsement by the African Union (AU) last August and in spite of a belated challenge by Djibouti. On the eve of the vote, President Uhuru Kenyatta extolled Kenya’s proven suitability for the post.

“A vote for Kenya is a vote for peace,” said President Kenyatta. “A vote for Kenya is a vote for global solidarity and multilateralism [whereby] even the smallest voice shall be heard as much as the biggest voice.”

The President’s standing in Africa and the global South and the country’s stable bilateral and multilateral relations across the world, coupled with a good record in international affairs, smoothed the lobbying by former Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary, Dr Monica Juma, and her successor Raychelle Omamo, who played a big role in securing the seat.

 Kenya will hold the rotating seat for the third time since Independence, having sat on the UNSC in 1973-1974 and in 1997-1998.

During the first stint, Kenya distinguished itself as a pivotal and stable nation state, reliable player in the international system and guarantor of peace, security and stability.

Before , it had established its credentials as an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) founder member, prominent member of the Non-Aligned Movement through the Cold War,  with a passive equidistance in foreign policy, non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations and a supporter for the end of Apartheid and colonialism. It showed solidarity with oppressed peoples by joining the OAU in shunning Apartheid South Africa and throwing its diplomatic voice against Israeli policies against Palestinians.

 Its contributions to global peace and security in the 1970s and ‘90s as a UNSC member included hosting Angolan protagonists in peace negotiations and emergence as a top UN peacekeeper in Turkish-Cyprus and Israel-Lebanon border conflicts.

The second stint is notable for its role in the Sudan-South Sudan and Somalia conflicts. It welcomed thousands of refugees and hosted peace talks that led to midwifing of the final Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.

In between, it hosted talks between protagonists in Mozambique and deployed peacekeepers to the Ethio-Eritrea conflict, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Namibia and then-Yugoslavia.

When the world abandoned Somalia and South Sudan, Kenya remained engaged with its resources to revive talks. In peace time, it has pursued regional and continental integration as a leading proponent for green energy, sustainable development and free trade.

 Kenya has offered its good offices and committed its soft power, human and financial resources for mediation in the context of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) with support from the European Union or the AU.

It supports free trade and movement of goods and people within the East African Community (EAC).

It is the only Third World nation to host the headquarters of a main UN agency, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep).

Kenya assumes this key post amid fraying Ethiopia-Egypt relations over the Nile waters; frozen conflicts in DR Congo and South Sudan; locust-afflicted Horn of Africa; Libyan and Somali civil wars; militants in Mozambique and Mali; and Africans pouring across the Mediterranean in search of livelihoods. 

On the Covid-19 pandemic that has cost lives and shuttered economies, it backs the search for a cure and vaccine and access to them.

Last month, the AU named Kenya an observer in the Ethio-Sudan-Egyptian Nile row.

Dr Keynan, MP for Eldas, is secretary of the Jubilee Party coalition.  [email protected] @HonAdanKeynan